Saturday, May 23, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine - 3 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: Comic book lovers, people with a crush on Hugh Jackman, or adrenaline junkies

Best Mood to Walk In With: Excited to see big explosions or amorous for beefed up males

Don't See This Movie If: You want a story based in realism or if the only reason you like the X-Men franchise is for the not-so-subtle social/political commentary

This movie took me back to the days of adolescence. If I had a locker, I would plaster it with pictures of Hugh Jackman from this movie. I'm pretty sure anyone attracted to men would consider X-Men Origins: Wolverine not just a movie with eye candy, but a literal 9-course feast of Hugh Jackman.

Luckily, the movie itself is pretty good for those of you not into guys or Hugh Jackman (impossible!). For X-Men fans like myself, the story of Wolverine's "creation" is interesting and solidly delivered. Like many big action flicks, the special effects are big and at times cheesy (think of the scene from the trailer where Wolverine is running in slow motion with a huge fiery explosion erupting behind him). But if you're willing to suspend your sense of reality enough to accept that the main character has blades coming out of his hands, then you should be able to sit back and enjoy the big blasts and outrageous fight scenes.

The intro to the movie was great. Also, I was very impressed with the style used during the battles through the ages montage at the beginning. As each battle moves into the next, the shots freeze a little, definitely catching the comic book aspect of the movie. There is this one awesome 360 shot where Logan and Victor are surrounded by soldiers and the camera circles them as they hold their characters' traditional fight stances. (LOVED it!) However, after the beginning sequences, there is not much homage paid to the comic book style as seen in the vivid colors of the Spiderman franchise and the swift editing of the Batman franchise's fight scenes.

As for the acting, I was very pleased with Hugh Jackman's performance. Yes, I enjoyed his numerous shirtless scenes, but really a nice chest can only get you so far (think Matthew Mcconaughey, wah wah). Jackman and Liev Schreiber make a great team and really play well off each other. Schreiber, a reputably kind man and loving father, is very convincing as a vengeful, violence-loving mutant and his snarls scared me a little to be honest. The child actors playing Wolverine and Saber Tooth as kids were great. They did a wonderful job mimicking the older actors. Everyone else's performances were adequate, but not really worth mentioning.

Keep Your EARS Closed For: Victor Creed running his claw down a car...worse than nails on a chalkboard!
Keep Your Eyes Open For: Victor leaping through battle on D-Day and up through enemy lines.

Overall, a very fun movie. People who loved the previous X-Men movies should really enjoy this installment, and those who know nothing about Wolverine or X-Men can get into the movie without prior knowledge. And, for the record, Wolverine could kick Freddy Krueger's butt any day...

Movies are Life. ~ K

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Good Reason to Be Excited Today

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian comes out today!!! If anyone sees it, let me know what you think because I am probably not seeing it til tomorrow. :) (For the record, rottentomatoes didn't think to highly of it, as evidenced here.)

10 Reasons to be excited about this movie:
1. The first one was so fun!
2. All-star cast, specifically...
3. Amy Adams is in this sequel and she is AWESOME!
4. Movies aimed at children are fast-paced and exciting because they have to keep the attention of the little ones.
5. Robin Williams rocked the first one, and he's back again!
6. Everyone's favorite dinosaur is a T-Rex.
7. Museums are wonderful...
8. ...And movies like this make me remember the book From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which is possibly one of the best young adult/children's books ever.
9. You know I love a special effect!
10. And finally, because, let's be honest, I've seen everything else! ;)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Terminator Salvation - 2.75 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People wanting constant action, people who liked the special effects in Transformers , people who want to see a typical summer blockbuster

Best Mood to Walk In With: Ready to be visually stimulated

Don't See This Movie If: You want good dialogue, good acting, or comedy, or if you have high expectations for anything outside of the special effects

First off I need to thank my friend Eric for being awesome and working at a movie theater. He is the reason I sometimes get to see movies ahead of general audiences, and he has definitely won favorite person status for this and several other reasons. Since he and I tend to have very different perspectives concerning movies, I'm hoping he will write another review for this film since he really disliked it for interesting reasons.

I, however, really enjoyed Terminator Salvation and appreciated it for the type of movie it is. The story wasn't so hot, the robots tended to get less intelligent as the movie progressed, the dialogue was straight up awful, but none of this mattered to me and probably won't matter to most of America, because that's not why we really go see action movies during the summer. I anticipate Terminator killing the box offices this weekend, because I don't know if I can think of another movie with such high quality, continuous special effects. I was happy to sip my Diet Coke and ignore the banal conversation in the movie, because in my mind it was just filler 'til the next explosion. And the explosions were awesome!

It must be noted, though, that I have no emotional attachment to the Terminator franchise. If the next Harry Potter movie, however, was all glitz and no substance, I would be incredibly frustrated. So keep in mind that I am able to be excited about this movie because I have no personal investment in the characters. Those who haven't seen any other Terminator movies will be fine due to a concise yet very adequate synopsis at the beginning of the movie. However, this brainless narration tends to continue throughout the film, as if the screenwriter assumed everyone in the audience is too stupid to keep up.

Also, I found it hard to care about the characters. Christian Bale did his normal monotone acting of sometimes yelling without feeling and other times looking broodingly conflicted. It is easy to believe he went crazy at a lighting guy on this movie set, because he basically does the same thing as John Connor. The character of Marcus was much more interesting, and Sam Worthington was really fun to watch in this role until the end where his storyline faded into banality. Also, I was surprised to see Helena Bonham Carter make an appearance in the movie and was equally startled by her flatline performance, since normally she brings a lot of depth to her characters. Moon Bloodgood as Blair kicked ass, but disappointingly disappeared from the plot about halfway in. The true star performer in this flick is Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese. While the other actors tended to be one dimensional, Yelchin broadened his range while also being the only character who made me laugh with humor and not ridicule. (If he looks familiar to you, he is also the brainchild from Star Trek.)

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: The needless and bad Arnold impersonator at the end
Keep Your Eyes Open For: The very clever way Terminator's tagline "I'll be back." got worked into the script

Overall, if you go into this movie with expectations of only special effects, you will be satisfied. If you buy your ticket looking for a consistent plot or awesome lines, you may feel cheated out of your $10. In that case, go see Night At the Museum.

Movies are Life. ~ K

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Monsters vs. Aliens 3-D - 3 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People under the age of 10, people who like 3-D animated features, and people who like silliness

Best Mood to Walk In With: Childish glee :)

Don't See This Movie If: You want realism, seriousness, or adults in the seats around you

I have to begin this with a discloser: I believe you should see children's movies with a child if at all possible. Having a small partner in crime will enhance the movie, since she or he will laugh at all the kid-directed jokes whose funniness you may have missed due to your (ugh!) adulthood. Also, you will feel clever and superior when you laugh at the jokes the little ones do not get. Just kidding... ;)

But seriously, in the world of kid movies Monsters vs. Aliens is much better than so-so movies like Madagascar 2, Flushed Away, Over the Hedge, Surf's Up, and Bolt, because unlike these forgettable flicks, Monsters vs. Aliens does not rely only on gross humor. You may not believe me if you've seen the the trailers (the ads I saw included the President calling a "code brown" and also showed a guy photocopying his butt to get through security), but this movie was pretty clever in its one-liners, though the story was a little flat for adults. (It should be noted, though, that my date Cody thought the storyline was excellent in his four year old opinion.)

This criticism is why Monsters vs. Aliens was good, but not quite in the realm of the insta-hits like Finding Nemo, Toy Story, or Wall-E. These classics are not only funny and entertaining, but also bring an unexpected poignancy to their stories. With Monsters vs. Aliens, what you see is what you get for the most part, so no Kleenex is necessary. The one exception to this straight forward formula is the unexpected subtle message of girl power. Gone are the days of Ariel sitting on a rock, longing for some man to complete her, and Susan aka Ginormica is happy to bring a more millenial and empowering message to the kiddies.

Along with this surprising burst of feminism, Reese Witherspoon is her normal charming self, even though her packaging is a little different. And Seth Rogen brings on the goofiness per usual. The other cast members lending their voices to this ensemble is impressive in their collective star power once you get to the credits, but you probably won't guess at who they are during the film.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: the scenes where Insectasaurus uses his snot as a bodily appendage (gross!)
Keep Your Eyes Open For: the yo-yo scene at the beginning (that's why seeing the movie in 3-D is so important! :))

As for the 3-D, I highly encourage you to spend the extra few dollars to upgrade from the normal showing. Disney's Bolt in 3-D was not much better than 2-D, but Monsters vs. Aliens really used the extra dimension pretty creatively. Also, you get to see the trailers for Ice Age 3 in 3-D and Up in 3-D, the latter of which looks like it will be phenomenal.

Movies are Life. ~ K

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Star Trek - 3.5 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People who liked Transformers last summer

Best Mood to Walk In With: Carefree, looking to lose yourself in a fun journey for a few hours

Don't See This Movie If: You are looking for something with social or ethical commentary or a film with strong female characters

I thought only Trekkies would enjoy the newest Star Trek movie, and I was wrong. Very wrong. Not only was the script a well-thought out story while still being easy to follow, but the acting was much better than I anticipated. Although my friend Eric loves Cloverfield, this has been the first J.J. Abrams film I've ever cared for (I mean, Joyride...really?).

Something that most summer blockbusters have a hard time with is character development, and it usually doesn't matter because we're so taken in by the big explosions (G.I. Joe) or the hot actors and actresses (Megan Fox in Transformers 2). Star Trek gives you the action and the hotness, but also surprisingly delivers characters that you can't help but love. The only drawback is the sad lack of female characters as anything but love interests for the more fascinating men that surround them. However, this is a flaw with Hollywood and not only this movie. But for a franchise that brought us the first interracial onscreen kiss in 1968, I would have liked to see them push the envelope yet again with a (gasp!) real story line for underutilized Zoe Saldana as Nyota Uhura.

Other than that one minor disappointment (which most other people probably would not notice), Star Trek delivered it all: funny one-liners, tear evoking loss, high powered chases (both on Earth and in space), hand-to-hand combat, great special effects, romantic interludes, scary scenes in the snow, alternate realities, and enough geeky-cool details to satisfy the hidden nerd in us all (or the not so hidden nerd if you get the privilege to sit next to someone dressed like a Vulcan).

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: Jim Kirk pulling bloody tissues out of his nose and looking at them (GROSS!).
Keep Your Eyes Open For: Any scene where Spock says "Live Long and Prosper" or some variation there of. (This is very cleverly done!)

Again, I have to give the director kudos. His newfound love for Star Trek translated just as easily to film as Peter Jackson's love for Lord of the Rings. J.J. Abrams has helped create the "Next Generation" of more mainstream Trekkies and may have given us the best summer blockbuster until July 17 when Harry Potter Avada Kedavra's every other movie. ;)

Movies are Life. ~ K

Angels & Demons - 2.75 out of 4 Stars

Who Would Love This Movie: People who liked the adventure of National Treasure and the settings and action of In Bruges...or in non-movie speak, people who want a fun scavenger hunt with historic clues in a European city with some rather graphic violence at times.

Best Mood to Walk In With: Looking for action and having taken your ADD medication...some dialogue moves fast.

Don't See This Movie If: You are looking for a comedy.

Maybe it was my low expectations after the DaVinci Code movie, but I enjoyed Angels & Demons. Granted, it did not capture the intelligence and amazing depth of history and detail that the book did, but if you are simply looking for a fun summer blockbuster, it will deliver.

The first 20 minutes are rather slow and convoluted. At first the script tends to follow the book's dialogue, except you can't go back and make sense of what you just read, so pay attention. However, once you get past the unnecessary "character building" and into the action, it becomes a rather exciting adventure through Rome. The scenery and colors of the film are beautiful, and the cinematography is elegant but not very creative (think every other movie by Ron Howard). I must admit though, I was a little surprised by the violent scenes, not because there were a lot of them, but the images presented were a little disquieting.

Like The DaVinci Code, Tom Hanks is not as suave or captivating as Indiana Jones, which is how I imagined Dr. Robert Langdon to be. But Ewan McGregor delivers with his passionate Catholic fervor and intelligent calm amid the chaos. And the feminists who disliked The DaVinci Code will be pleased to see a female lead (Ayelet Zurer) who maybe does not truly lead the movie, but at least is more than the simpering cheerleader amazed by the men around her that made us all gag in the last installment of this franchise.

Interesting to note, rather than shy away from the controversy of Dan Brown's works with the Catholic Church, at one point Dr. Langdon is directly asked if he is anti-religion. Due to the ending, people of faith probably will not be offended by this movie unless they are very conservative. Ron Howard does a good job keeping the movie mainstream enough to allow respect for both religion and science.

Keep Your Eyes Closed For: "Tom Hanks" swimming in a speedo
Keep Your Eyes Open For: Cardinals smoking cigarettes and talking on cell phones

All in all, if you have already seen Star Trek, this will do. But the voyages of the Starship Enterprise definitely outrank this Roman Holiday...

Movies are Life. ~ K